There’s a theory of movie-making, espoused (if not invented) by t.v. and film critic Chris Ryan, that if you “put dope actors in your movie,” your movie will be good.
That seems to be the running theory behind Genius, out this summer, which follows the story of American Southern writer Thomas Wolfe and his connections with New Yorker Maxwell Perkins, the publisher. The cast includes Colin Firth (Maxwell Perkins); Jude Law (Thomas Wolfe); Nicole Kidman (Aline Bernstein); Guy Pearce (F. Scott Fitzgerald); and Laura Linney (Louise Saunders).
While this theory that good actors can compensate for a mediocre script often works just dandy (see all three—sorry, four—Hunger Games movies), that doesn’t seem to be the case with Genius. It’s been dubbed “hammily acted” (The Guardian), “unappealingly lit” (The Daily Telegraph), “like CPR on a lifeless body” (The Hollywood Reporter), and said to posses “all the life of a flower pressed between Look Homeward Angel’s pages eighty-seven years ago” (Variety).
Not exactly ringing endorsements, especially given the movie’s 49 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Still, those interested in Asheville’s favorite son, Thomas Wolfe, and his editor Perkins, who also edited F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, might stomach the bad lighting and wretched acting to find something of value.